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Sustainable Best Practices: A New Approach to Printing

(August 2009) posted on Fri Aug 07, 2009

The popularity of sustainable printing is gaining momentum in the screen-printing industry. This discussion describes some of the ways you can actually make your operation more sustainable and highlights the cost savings associated with eco-friendly business decisions.

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If we really need a particular item, can we find an environmentally friendlier way to obtain or use it? Is an more environmentally friendly version of the material available? For example, can we source and use pesticide-free, organic cotton in place of conventional cotton? What is the greater impact of continued use of the less ecologically sensible material? Do we really need to buy ink from the EU because it’s cheaper? Or should we pay a bit more, and purchase it from a vendor located 20 miles away, thereby paying less in shipping charges and impacting the environment less as a result of the shorter shipping distance (less fuel used in the shipping process, with less air pollution generated by the vehicle)? And do customers really want a printer who is engaged in these types of activities? Or is it all just hype?

There are as many ways to answer these questions as there are printers. Each printer has to do what works best for them, based on their print processes, their customers, their locations, and their employees. The answer isn’t always easy or obvious. You may travel a twisted path to get to the answer only to find there’s more than one answer! Consider the following example of how one printer started out to reduce energy costs and ended up saving money on trash-hauling fees.

If you’re a printer who makes local deliveries, have you considered consolidating deliveries to key customers? With gasoline prices topping $4.00 a gallon in the not so distant past, one printer decided it was time to start looking at energy costs. The company initiated a dialogue with its customers in hope of consolidating shipments. What they found out was one customer actually had unused storage space at their site and the printer was able to go from small, daily deliveries to a larger delivery once a week. Not only did this cut down on fuel costs, but maintenance costs for the vehicle were also reduced. This, in turn, resulted in fewer oil changes and less waste oil for disposal.


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